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Monday, November 14, 2011

3rd Annual SFAVolleyBlog.net All-Conference Teams

Right off the bat, I must say that this was the most difficult of the three years to construct these teams. A lot of players that just missed the list could be interchanged on the 3rd team and I'd be just fine. I don't think there is a clear Player of the Year this year at all. In some shape or form, almost all of the players I list on my 1st team below are worthy POY choices.

I would like to state as I have for three years now that I am primarily driven by numbers. That being said, the side of me that can recognize tools is slowly growing whereas the statistics side of my analysis is ingrained in me by training. Furthermore, I have far more conversations with people who actually vote on these lists throughout the year now and because of that I often become aware of players that coaches particularly like. But, I must admit, there are times when I hear coaches and others talk players up and my conclusion is still "the numbers aren't there... I just don't see it." Ultimately, if you have skills/tools, it should translate to production. Because of that, I tend to go off numbers, but not exclusively. I don't see all the teams. Neither do the Sports Information Directors.

Last year there was a discussion of AVCA guidelines for choosing players. Respectfully, I will ignore them. In my mind, they are biased against certain positions. If you would like to discuss this again, then please - send me an email and I will flesh out my thoughts on that in more detail.

Additionally, I will remind you that I actually pick "teams". The conference does not do this. Last year, the conference put 12 girls on the first team, six girls on the 2nd team and had 9 girls listed as honorable mention for a total of 27 girls recognized. I will have three teams of seven for 21 girls honored and then a list of the players I considered for the list and "just missed".

As I said each of the last two years: "There are seven starters each night for any particular team, so we will pick seven girls per team. Each team is required to have a a setter, libero, two middle blockers, two hitters and a seventh player that can either be MB or OH."

This list may get dissected at a later time, but my goal is to publish this each year on the Monday following the conclusion of the regular season. Primarily I do this so that I am not influenced by the official All-SLC teams which I expect to be named on Wednesday.

And now for the lists...

First Team

OH Carli Kolbe, Sam Houston
RS Amari Deardorff, Texas State
MB Amber Calhoun, Texas State
MB McKenzie Adams, UTSA
S Kelsey Schwirtlich, UTSA
L Alicia Shaffer, UTA
RS Whitney Walls, UTSA

Second Team

OH Tara Frantz, UTA
OH Elise Huskey, UTSA
MB Brittany Malloy, UTSA
MB Nicole Bowden, McNeese
S Caleigh McCorquodale, Texas State
L Kelsey Jewasko, UTSA
OH Melissa Toth, Texas State

Third Team

OH Amanda Aguilera, UTA
OH Stacy DiFrancesco, Northwestern State
MB Kim Black, Sam Houston
MB Ashlee Hilbun, Texas State
S Becky Bekelja, McNeese
L Madison Hanlan, SFA
OH Sierra Whittaker, Lamar

Just Missed:
OH: Jennifer Brandt, Nicholls

MB: A whole slew of players. Choosing MB's this year was tough. I considered all of the following for a 3rd team spot: Brooke Alverson, TAMUCC; Taylor Hammonds, UCA; Jessica Addicks, Nicholls; MC Bottles, SFA; Sabrina Burns, SFA; Christina Hobbs, Lamar.

S: Kym Loving, Sam Houston; Marissa Collins, UCA.

L: Cristin Curl, UCA.

Player of the Year: Amari Deardorff, Texas State
Setter of the Year: Kelsey Schwirtlich, UTSA
Libero of the Year: Alicia Shaffer, UTA
Newcomer of the Year: McKenzie Adams, UTSA
Coach of the Year: Brenda Gray, Sam Houston
Freshman of the Year: Stacy DiFrancesco, Northwestern State

I am not going to add a dissertation worth of a defense in this post, but I will give you some insight to some of my picks. First, I am happy with any of Deardorff, Kolbe, Calhoun, Walls or Adams winning player of the year. Deardorff has been my pick for several weeks now, but I strongly considered shifting to Kolbe in the last 48 hours. Ultimately, I went with Deardorff for two reasons: 1) In Texas State's most critical match in conference play - against UTSA recently, she came up huge: 19-1-39. When I read that box score last week it clicked in my mind...that's an MVP type performance when it really counted. 2) I can't ignore the attack errors for Kolbe and the fact that Deardorff only committed 56 errors all year. That hitting percentage is nearly twice that of Kolbe's. Now, I know that they differ a ton in total attacks and that Kolbe is a full six rotation player and Deardorff isn't. It's that kind of argument - along with the fact that Kolbe racks up a ton of digs because she plays all the way around - that is convincing.

Calhoun, Walls and Adams can all dominate too. Whitney Walls destroyed us. Her performance against SFA really sticks in my mind, but at the end of the day, I think I'd take Deardorff over Walls by just a hair. Again, if you prefer Walls, then I am not going to put up much of a fight.

For years, I have touted Nicole Bowden. I am through defending her. Her performance and numbers speak for themselves. I won't be surprised if the voters ignore both her and Bekelja. Collins will probably win the voters over because of her excellence last year. Bekelja is a fine defender, leading all setters in digs, and that's my tiebreaker on the 3rd team. I also suspect voters will rate Curl higher than I have, especially since she won the last Defensive Player of the Week award and that will be fresh in people's minds. Curl is a fine libero, I just don't believe she was as consistent as either of the three girls on my list.

Some may object to DiFrancesco purely because she racked up so many kills because of attacking over 1300 times and hit only .131. To this argument, I say: Where were you last year when you were making arguments for Emma Ridley? Now, DiFrancesco is no Ridley (not even close), I am just pointing out that Ridley also racked up kills in the same way as DiFrancesco.. namely, their teams tend to set them incredibly often. So what? She killed more balls than anyone in the conference. That's got to be worth at least 3rd team.

In terms of the 3rd team middle blockers, I broke the tie based on team quality. Some will object to this. In one version of this list, I had both of our own MB's in there. But, if you are going to put Burns in there, then you have to put Addicks in there because they are the same player. Hammonds was also in one draft, but ultimately I went with Hilbun and Black primarily because I have been personally impressed with the play I have witnessed from both of them and they play for better overall teams than those on the "just missed" list.

Finally, in terms of Coach of the Year. I know Groff and Chisum have a case.. and they are both good ones. Hey, remember I picked Groff last year when everyone had a love affair with McRoberts. But, let me ask you this: What's more impressive - taking a team that was picked to be first or second to the tournament as a #1 or #2 seed, or... taking a team picked as low as 7th in one poll and bringing them to the tournament as the #3?


  1. First of all let me say I just found your blog and love it, especially the interviews you do with players and coaches around the league. That's great.

    As a Bearkat fan I naturally think there's no question that Carli Kolbe is player of the year :) She has more errors but that is because nearly every off ball or difficult set goes to her because she can make things happen. Not to mention her numerous swings out of the back. Her defense, as you said, does set her apart from the other players you mentioned. She led our team in digs per set and made some great saves in the back.

    I loved what Lamar's coach said about her because its absolutely true. She has become a much smarter and complete player just this year. Her serve recieve is so much better and she rolls and places shots very effectively, which is great because everyone's back on their heals thinking she's going to slam it.

  2. Unfortunately I can't make it up to Arkansas but hopefully I can catch a few live chats. Let's hope for a second round SHSU vs. SFA matchup!

  3. All of your points are relevant & well taken. These were exactly the things that I considered about possibly pushing Kolbe over the top. One other thing I thought about is: If you had one player to start a team with... who would it be? Kolbe may be the answer to that question. However, last year, I would have answered it with Emma Ridley and yet, I still felt Jessica Hays at UCA had better overall numbers. This year is even tougher. I don't think it is a slam dunk at all and I am not going to question a Kolbe vote at all. She'd make an excellent choice. That Deardorff performance against UTSA was just over the top for me. In crunch time.. that's what big players do. She was outstanding in the most critical point of the regular season.

  4. Just checked in and took a look.

    No one from Central Arkansas? Humm. Curl is very very good and so is Collins. Collins just didn't have the experienced hitters this year with Hays out, but she was still was able to get her hitters good looks and create some holes with that quicker tempo offense. At this point, Collins does all the creating for UCA on offense.

    Love the other two libero picks. Shaffer is very tough and overlooked too much. Her size and athleticism are a real asset to her. She has great range and quickness as a taller libero. Jewasko is just a fireball and a leader.

    Like the choices for MB as well. Solid picks.

    As far as OH are concerned, sure think the Cards have some good ones! I guess we will see this weekend.

    See you in Conway.

  5. I am comfortable with Hanlan over Curl.

    As far as Lamar's OH's.. I was impressed with McStravick while in Beaumont, but when I go to look at numbers, it's just not there. This is one of those cases of tools vs. stats. Now.. I should say: In 2009, I threw a fit (in this blog space) about Frantz of UTA getting 1st team All-SLC. Then, I got over to San Antonio for the tournament and Frantz went crazy. I got a few looks of "take that" from the UTA folks.. it was great.

    So, maybe McStravick and McCollum will rack it up in the tournament and you can say "told you so". It wouldn't be the first time...

    Collins and Curl will probably get honored. I just think Bekelja brings another dimension - digs - kind of like Loving is a good blocker for SHSU from the setter position.

  6. Another thing you got me thinking about is back row players that aren't liberos making post season teams.

    Players that only play front row don't have much of a problem making the lists because the kills and blocks and hitting percentages are flashy. However, what about those players that just sub in to play in the back?

    If there was a spot reserved for them on each of your teams (or All Southland teams) I have no doubt Taylor Gray or Kaylee Hawkins could make the cut.

    Gray played right back for our right side(s) the entire season. She often lead the team in digs and totaled 284 on the season while only playing half of the rotations.

    Hawkins is our starting outside now, but for most of the season she split time hitting with Cleveland and subbed in for her in the back. This kept her numbers down and her off most people's radar for selection. She's got 321 digs on the season and 26 aces. I wish the conference keep stats on kills from back row because I have no doubt Hawkins would be among the top (along with Kolbe).

    I'm sure other teams have these players as well. The non-liberos that get it done back row and make those setters and hitters look good.

    Just some thoughts.

  7. Calhoun over Kolbe and Deardorff. O well Carli, time to put that chip on your shoulder for the tournament :)

  8. Calhoun is a very worthy choice. Like I said in the post, I have no problem with her gaining that recognition. I thought the voters did an outstanding job. The official All-SLC teams look pretty much dead on to me... with the exception that Elise Huskey from UTSA has to be on there somewhere.

    I eagerly await tomorrow's matches..should be great volleyball!


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